Jason Vargas’ two-year/$16 million free agent pact has been nothing short of an abomination thus far, but for one night, at least, the Mets got their money’s worth.
Vargas held the free-falling Washington Nationals scoreless over six impressive frames on Friday night, allowing only three hits and punching out a season high eight hitters as the Mets took the series opener from their D.C. rivals, 3-0.
After Vargas had retired the Nats’ in order in the top of the first, the Mets offense got off to a fast start against Gio Gonzalez in the bottom half of the frame. Amed Rosario led off with a single and then stole second base, and two batters later the speedy shortstop scored on a Wilmer Flores single. In the second, Vargas got himself into immediate trouble when Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto singled to start the inning, but the southpaw wiggled out of the jam by retiring the next three Washington hitters.
New York threatened in the home 2nd but couldn’t push a run across, and after an uneventful third inning, the game went to the fourth with the Mets still up 1-0. It was here where Vargas delivered arguably his most impressive frame of 2018, striking out Bryce Harper, Zimmerman and Soto consecutively. The Mets got a two-out rally started in the bottom of the inning when Jose Bautista was hit by a pitch and Kevin Plawecki doubled, but Vargas himself struck out to end the frame.
In the fifth and sixth innings, Vargas retired six of seven hitters to end his outing, but New York was unable to extend their lead against Gonzalez despite getting runners in almost every frame all night.
The Mets turned the game over to Seth Lugo in the seventh, and Amazins’ dynamic bullpen weapon retired all six hitters he faced over two frames, striking out three. In the bottom of the eighth, with Gonzalez out of the game, New York was finally able to push across some insurance runs to put the game out of reach. Cult hero Jeff McNeil led off with a walk and reached second on a stolen base. The next two New York hitters were retired by righty Koda Glover, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez then summoned southpaw Tim Collins into the ballgame to face fresh-from-the-DL Jay Bruce. The left-handed slugger promptly deposited a fly ball over the right center field fence to extend the Mets’ lead to 3-0, which felt like an insurmountable sum with the lifelessness of the Washington offense.
Robert Gsellman came on to record the final three outs of the game to close out his eighth save of the season, and the home team was officially back in the New York groove.
Tonight Zack Wheeler will take the ball for New York opposing Washington righty Tanner Roark.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports